War is the greatest catastrophe to transpire onto the world. It brings to us disappointment, loss and the gruesome horror that is holding your loved ones in your arms until they take their last breath.
On the blood covered streets of Sarajevo, Tony Harrison shows the now normal lives of the people during war- standing in the never ending lines to get rations, hauling water on the torturous stairs and carefully carrying the precious canisters of gas to survive. Despite the horrors that the people of Sarajevo were living in, two young individuals conveyed the one thing almost impossible during war.
Hope. Hope that the war doesn’t take everything that they love and blow it up into debris.
Similarly, on a cold dark day, Wilfred Owen takes us through the life of a soldier who is haunted by the loss of his life due to war. Due to the impulsive decision that he made just to feel like a hero.
However, all hope is lost in his world. He lets the darkness consume him and he sits in his misery, waiting for death to bring him peace. Both the authors represent the realities of war, however, both poems show different responses to war and I want to explore how the subjects in the poem react to the atrocities of war.Owen uses an effective title- “Disabled” that gives a negative connotation of the veteran about him being helpless and stranded in his own mind.
The poem starts off by presenting a setting that includes the disabled soldiers longingly looking out at the children.
He regrets and yearns for the youth that the children have and that he lost, because of his young blood that drove him to make an impetuous decision that ripped everything from him. The soldier is described as, sitting “in a wheeled chair, “waiting for dark”, “legless, sewn short at elbow” showing us how he is crumbling, both emotionally and physically which has resulted him in plunging into the darkness where he is begging for death to take him away.
The use of alliteration when he mentions “ghastly suit of grey” shows how his life changed in a flash owing to war and now, after all the suffering, his life is only guilt and regret. The writer also contributes do delivering his message about the feelings of the soldier by using irony when he says “One time he liked a blood-smear·shoulder-high” which suggests how on the field, he was full of pride to be carried by his teammates and contented to get injured on the field, however in the field of war, he was filled with repentance when he lost his leg and when they carried him because he couldn’t walk due to his rundown state. Owen also illustrates how the consequences of war have caused him to wait for death and plead it to come take him away from the horror that he is living in by using repetition- “Why don’t they come…Why don’t they come?”
In addition, Owen starts off by using the word “he” instead of saying the name of the soldier to show how just like him, millions of soldiers lost their lives because of war and how they were insignificant to the face of war. Owen also uses expressive language for example, adjectives like “dark” and “grey” to express the isolation and darkness of the soldier, bringing out his feelings to the readers.
Furthermore, the poem’s structure illustrates the meaning by showing the soldier’s past and present, illustrating how in his youth, he was esteemed and victorious, however, now he was a “queer disease”, plunged into sorrow because of one uncontrollable drunken moment that made him make a decision that turned his life upside down. Additionally, The writer emphasises on his immaturity which instigated him to believe that war was only uniforms and praises instead of violence and battlegrounds by using lists (“He thought of jewelled hilts…of smart salutes”) to express his idea of war.
Further, Harrison names the poem “The Bright lights of Sarajevo” which expresses the hope in Sarajevo and that there is always a light in the dark.
In this coherent poem, the writer starts off the poem by presenting the blood covered streets of Sarajevo under siege. Harrison takes us to the never-ending queues of the desperate people agonizingly waiting to get the rations of measly grains. Hoping, they can leave before the bombs cause their world to explode. The use of alliteration (“stroller’s stride”) shows how carefree they were and weren’t letting war take over their lives. He uses irony as well when he says, “Lead her away from where they stand on two shell scars” which shows how they are relishing their time on a place wrecked by war but instead of being repulsed by it, they are embracing what is going on in their lives and accepting their reality. Additionally, Harrison uses repetition when he repeats death in “death-deep death-dark” to emphasize on how war brings nothing but demise and devastation.
Furthermore, Harrison uses distinctive language like “black shapes” instead of specifying to show how they all go through the same thing because of war no matter where they come from. However, towards the end, the writer says “star-filled evenings” to show that there is still hope and the fear of losing everything is eventually going to clear away.
Moreover, the structure contributes to the poem since it is written in first person narrative which suggests Harrison watching their hope bloom first hand, making it more real and believable that something as impossible as hope during war is probable. The writer also uses kennings, “death-deep” to show the strength and power of the couple radiating hope in a world filled with death. The poem follows a strict rhyme scheme where every couplet rhymes, indicates the strong love of the couple illustrating there are still better days.
“Disabled” is a poem of regret. Regret of the decisions made by the veteran in the heat of the moment. Regret that he took war as a sport but in reality, it was a monster set out to destroy lives which ultimately caused him to cave in to the horrors it brought. “The Bright Lights of Sarajevo” is a poem of hope and love. Hope that the war will not take everything from them. Hope that one day they will have peace and prosperity. The couple radiates this hope throughout the poem and holds onto it, preventing them from being subjugated.
Looking at the world right now, it’s heart-breaking. Terrorists, wars and shootings. Millions of deaths at the hands of people who do not learn. Who will never learn. But the others. Those of us who stand together and not let the battlegrounds break us apart. Those are the strong ones. And especially the ones who fight for their countries. Those are the ones who deserve our attention and respect. And this is why I wanted to explore these two poems. To see how the war affects the lives of soldiers who fight side by side to protect their homes and the people suffering from the war that have broken their lives.
Even though some of the anthology texts have tragedy and suffering like in “Significant Cigarettes”, Lev left his home to make a living for his family which terrified and exhilarated him at the same time and how “Out Out” represents war as well but it focuses more on the fragility of life and the industrial revolution which isn’t my main focus here. Moreover, even though “Still I Rise” also talks about tragedy and the horrifying ordeals that Maya Angelou survived, it’s more towards identity than the topic I discussed at hand. Consequently I was prompted to choose “Disabled” and “The Bright Lights of Sarajevo” since it expertly expresses the consequences war has on people